It was a Friday. I was 40 weeks pregnant. My 18 month old woke at 5:30 to come snuggle in our bed.
“We have to make her stay in her crib,” my husband mumbled as I wedged her already sweaty little body between his arm and my giant belly.
“Shhh… she’s just a baby,” I murmured.
“Not for long.” He said as he rolled over.
I pulled my for-now baby in close and breathed in the whisps of her fluffy blonde hair. I had prayed that I would go into labor nearly every night for three weeks, but as much as my body wanted pregnancy to conclude, my mind screamed, “You’re not ready!” How would I manage returning home from the hospital with another little girl who would occupy our bed in the wee hours of the morning? What would I do with two babies in a queen-sized bed? It just didn’t seem fair to send my husband to the couch. Because this was my third baby, I could confidently say that there was room in my heart for more, but, literally, was there room in our bed? In our house? In our schedule?
My son straggled in around 6:45, so I heaved myself up and shuffled to the kitchen. I threw open the door to the patio to let the dog and the toddlers out to play while I made breakfast. This was the part of the day that I had down: coffee, breakfast, outside play. I could unload the dishwasher while boiling water and scrambling eggs (our kitchen is small, okay?). But as I stacked cups and pulled the toast out of the toaster I wondered: What would I do with a baby during breakfast? When will I nurse her? What if she’s crying? Should I wear her? Set up the swing in the kitchen? Perhaps these were questions that I should have been pondering all along, but third pregnancies don’t really pull focus the way other pregnancies do, and I wound up at forty weeks a lot faster than I’d expected. So there I was lockstep into my morning routine wondering what on earth would I do with a baby?
By 7:30 it was already 85 degrees, and I was – thankfully, I guess - not having any contractions. I tried to fold laundry on our patio table, but I quickly regretted it. Heat plus drought plus small children equals dustbowl, and in an effort to cool my children down/clean them up/distract them from hitting each other with the broom, I opted to let them use the hose for just five minutes in order to fill buckets and play naked carwash (This is a family favorite: Take off clothes, wash outside toys. You can pin this if you want). By 10:30 they were in the bathtub cooling off and scrubbing the morning grime from their sweaty little bodies, and I was pouring my second cup of coffee. Hashtag the usual.
It was about this time that my son declared his concern for our dog: “She scratching her booty so much, mom.” I looked over at our aging maltese-poodle viciously digging at her behind. Waddling over to where she lay, I already knew what I would find: fleas.
I hauled the children from the bathtub and plopped their dripping bodies in the hall. Grabbing the flea soap from the cabinet, I gritted my teeth.
“Mommy, why do dogs get fleas? Does God makes fleas? Can we get fleas? Can people get fleas? MOMMY DO I HAVE FLEAS? Vivi, look in my booty! LOOK!” My son stood and bent forward, sticking his rump in my daughter’s face.
“Gross! Brother’s booty!!”
I swear to you I said a lot of F words. Not the actual F word because I didn’t want to add that to list of things I needed to explain in the moment, but otherwise lots of Fs. So many.
I scrubbed the dog pretty meanly, and berated myself for not remembering the flea med refill, and also what in the world would I do with a baby in this situation? I didn’t know. As I viciously rinsed flea-ridden fur, my mind flooded with doubt: We were gross. My house wasn’t clean. I was a bad dog owner, and therefore probably a really bad mom. Why did I think I could have another baby?
My kids had wandered into their bedroom to play, and I consoled myself with the fact that they were really quite easily entertained and maybe that would solve all of my –
“Vivi pooped on the floor! MOM! By the train table! It’s a LOT of poo!!”
“I did. I have a poo. Right there. RIGHT THERE.”
Shockingly, I did not cry.
We survived the poopocalypse. Barely. After diapering and dressing my people, I hurried them out the door to take the dog to the vet. Although I’d scrubbed her, vacuumed, and cleaned the dog bed, the thought of bringing a new baby home to a potentially flea-ridden living room pushed a lot of my anxiety buttons. I may not know exactly how to manage another human, but I could try to keep her clean.
I buckled the car seats, and as I pulled out of the driveway, the thermometer in my van read 100 degrees.
I want to tell you that we really turned our day around, that by the time we arrived home from the vet the day that had been filled with poop and sweat and fleas and conflict was redeemed by a blissful nap time where I rejuvenated myself with iced-chai and thought lovely birthing thoughts in preparation for my new sweet bundle of joy. Sorry, no. None of those things happened, and as I plied my son with Daniel Tiger episodes I heard my daughter yelling from her crib: “Need pizza! I NEED pizza! NO NAP."
I softly opened the door to her room. I lifted her up and plopped us both on the loveseat next to her crib. She laid her head on my chest. Thankful that she wasn’t still yelling about pizza, I simply rubbed her tiny back. My big baby daughter tucked her knees on the sides of the belly that housed her tiny baby sister. Her feet gripped my hips as the baby wiggled inside of me. I can do this, I thought. I don’t have the logistics worked out yet, but I will. I could snuggle my daughter and the baby at the same time. I could really figure this out. I can do this.
I felt my daughter’s breath begin to steady as she drifted off on my chest. My shoulders relaxed, and I leaned my head back. The fan blew in the corner of her dark, cool room, and I brushed away a fuzz that was tickling my arm. I could think my loving birth thoughts here. This was probably more restful than our sweltering living room. I brushed another fuzz away. I need to clean that fan, I thought. It was admittedly pretty dusty, and I can’t have it blowing fuzz all over the room when the baby comes.
My arm started to itch. The fuzz was -- I sat up fast and flipped the switch on the lamp next to the loveseat: Ants. The fuzz was ants. Not just one ant. Not just ten ants. Hundreds.
Lest you think we are the world’s most disgusting family, let me briefly defend myself: we aren’t.
Between the drought, the heat, our half-acre of dry, dusty land, a barn cat, a couple of miniature horses, and a few cracks in the cement slab under our house, things got buggy. It didn’t help that someone left a small bowl of Honey Nut O’s on the floor of the nursery, which was basically a calling card for all ants within a hundred miles.
I texted my husband: ant emoji, ant emoji, gun emoji, exed out eye face with open mouth.
Husband: I’ll pick up dinner.
Here’s the thing about that terrible day – it was dreadful – but it was just one day. Poop, ants, pregnancy, fears, worries, these are some of the parts, but as far as motherhood is concerned, that bad day is not the sum total of my experience.
I think somewhere I got in my head that being a good mom meant that I could anticipate and circumvent any potential problem. If I were really a good mom, then I would have a plan for disaster before it ever struck. But the thing is, as much as I like to have a morning routine and a bedtime routine and an organized schedule of events for each day, I don’t have a plan a lot of the time. I can’t.
Days with dogs and kids include poop and fleas and heat and sweat and fights, and it’s not my job to keep those things at bay (as much as I’d like to). My job is to show my kids how to manage them – to learn through those experiences. Days with small children rarely go according to plan. I have to be quick on my feet, able to find joy in the happy moments and persevere in the tough moments, and in the process I’m modeling those characteristics for my the little ones who are always watching me.
I definitely cried into the burrito my husband brought me for dinner that night. The kids were cuddled up on either side of me watching Fireman Sam, and as my husband set the bag of food on my belly I burst into tears. A big, deep bean and cheese catharsis. My daughter rubbed her hand up and down my arm, and my son looked up at my husband: “There were lots of ants today, Dad. Lots.”
It was in that moment that I knew we were going to be okay. Not because I had a plan, but because it didn’t matter whether I had a plan or not. We had a rough day, but we got through it together. I didn’t know what I would do with a baby in that situation, but I knew what I would do overall: I would love her, hold her, cry a little (or a lot), and gear up for the next day.
We were ready.
Written by Anna Jordan. Photo by Sandra Kordazakis.